Vegan, Vegetarian, Meat Based? Which is Healthier?

With all the diet trends out there, there are a few diets that are not just a trend, but a way of eating for life that people enjoy sticking to. These diets are veganism, vegetarianism and carnivorism. These diets can all be healthy if they are done in the right way and I am going to break this down for you.

Being vegan and vegetarian can be very similar in a lot of ways of how they can be a very healthy way to eat providing your body with a lot of nutrients, but they can also be extremely unhealthy, especially when trying to find protein replacements. The main difference between eating vegan and eating vegetarian is animal products. In a nut shell vegans stay away from all animal products, but some vegetarians don’t mind still eating some animal products such as eggs and dairy. Of course, there are some vegetarians that may still avoid one or both of these things.

These two diets can be extremely healthy. They are both full of tons of nutrient rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts providing healthy fats, fiber and other important vitamins and minerals. Even a lot of the meat replacements can be healthy such as tofu and tempeh, it is when you start eating the highly processed foods and meat replacements when the health benefits start to go out the window.

If you read the ingredients on the processed vegan and vegetarian food options the majority of the ingredients are hard to pronounce and understand which is always a bad sign. If you are buying food with a laundry list of ingredients and you only know the first few words I would put it down. Yes, it is still vegan or vegetarian, but now with the amount of ingredients which translate into a lot of unhealthy fats and sugar a lot of the time you are better off just picking up the real thing.

A prime example of this is veggie burgers. Now don’t get me wrong there are some great options out there for veggie burgers, but there are also some very unhealthy options that are just as bad for you as eating the real thing, for example Beyond Meat Burgers and products similar to this. Look at these labels below. If you are strictly a vegan or vegetarian then obviously you are not going to go pick up a regular meat burger just because the calories and fat are similar, but these meat replacement burgers should not be looked at as healthy just because they don’t contain meat. Just like a regular burger, these should not be eaten every day because they are not healthy due to the amount of fat.

I waiver between eating meat and being vegetarian so for me personally for the amount of fat and calories in a Beyond Meat Burger is not worth it, I’d rather just eat the real thing if I’m going to indulge. However, during pregnancy when I cannot stand meat then I would go for the Beyond Meat burger if I wanted to treat myself to a “burger”, but just can’t stomach the idea of meat. One veggie burger option I really loved when I couldn’t eat meat and was a healthy option was Boca burger. These burgers are great! Good texture, taste was good, wasn’t filled with a ton of oils and unnecessary fillers, provided protein and even provided some fiber which is always a plus. The best way to enjoy processed vegan and vegetarian foods in a healthier way is to try and make them at home, but let’s be honest that is just not always realistic.

Now for those of us that enjoy meat this is another diet that can be healthy, but also very unhealthy if done the wrong way. There are plenty of healthy meat options such as poultry, fish and seafood. Things to think about when trying to eat healthy meat options are looking at the fat content and what kind of fat you are eating. Your meats should be low in saturated fat and high in healthy unsaturated fats and you can find these health benefits in poultry (specifically the breast), seafood and fish. Poultry and seafood will be the source of low saturated fat and fish will provide you with the healthy fats.

You can eat these meats everyday, but that is where you need to think about what else you are eating with these proteins. If you are eating only meat and other protein options everyday such as eggs and dairy then you are missing key nutrients in your diet. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes and healthy fats also need to be consumed. Meat does not provide you with the many nutrients these foods can give you and they definitely don’t provide you with fiber. Those that are on very low carb, high protein diets may find themselves not visiting the bathroom as much because their diet is very low in fiber. Ya, sure they may be losing weight, but their insides are more than likely not happy and long term the chances of seeing health issues are pretty high.

Fiber is key in your overall health. It helps move toxins and bad cholesterol out of your body and keeps you fuller longer. Fiber comes from fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. People who are not eating enough fiber have a higher chance of heart disease and stroke and when unhealthy foods high in unhealthy fats are added in, well that is just increasing the chances of these illnesses.

At the end of the day all of these diets CAN be healthy, but can is the keyword. If you are choosing the right foods that don’t have a list of ingredients and are paying attention to how much unhealthy fat and fiber you are consuming then chances are you will lose the weight at a steady pace and your insides will be nice and happy. What is the best way to do this? Shop in the produce section, you will notice there are not lists of ingredients on fruits and vegetables. When you are shopping in other parts of the store READ LABELS. Stick to these simple guidelines and throw in some physical activity a few days a week and your body will thank you.

*Please be aware that there are other ethical and environmental reasons people choose to not eat meat that I did not get into. When I eat meat I do my best to eat humanely raised animals and I avoid farm raised fish and seafood due to the chemicals in the food they are fed.

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